Foreclosure rates in St. Charles Parish have decreased by nearly 60 percent in the last year, according to statistics compiled by the Multiple Listings Service.
According to the service there were 93 foreclosures over the past year (from August 2011 to August 2012) in comparison to 160 from August 2010 to August 2011.
Although there are fewer foreclosed homes on the market in the last year, the homes spent an average of about 91 days on the market as opposed to the average of 72 days they spent on the market in the 2010-11 time period. In contrast, regular home listings have averaged 63 days on the market over the past year.
Regina Allemand, a realtor with Gardner Realtors in Boutte, said fewer foreclosures are a good sign for the community as a whole.
"The nice part of it is that the majority of houses that are being foreclosed upon are being purchased by investors to be flipped or rented," she said.
Allemand said the number of investors buying foreclosed properties in St. Charles Parish has gone up considerably over the past year.
"Itís usually the investors that buy, site unseen, several properties and then send a group out to do a rehab. Some of them are local and some are from as far away as California," Allemand said. "They come in and rehab the house and put it back on the market for a lot more. Weíve never seen that before out here."
Eliza Eugene, a realtor with Eugene-Colston Realty, said banks are also offering more help to homeowners before they are foreclosed upon.
"Banks are now working with the owners with short sales. That eliminates the foreclosure process if a home can go to a short sale," Eugene said. "I think it is because of the bank inventories. Itís much larger than probably itís ever been. Thatís one of the reasons why."
Allemand said some of the banks are also flipping the foreclosed homes themselves which has a steadying effect on property values.
"More of the banks that own the homes are rehabbing the houses so thereís not as many fixer uppers," Allemand said. "They are fixing them up and putting them on the market."
Eugene said she is encouraged by the number of investors buying in the area because the improvements they make raise the property values of nearby homes.
"Overall, the flips are done very tastefully and they can sell them. I think recently flips have been taking 30 days or so," Eugene said. "That is encouraging because thatís bringing the property values back."
Eugene said outside of fewer foreclosed properties being on the market, the number of homes being sold is going up as well.
"The real estate market is getting better overall, but we have to understand what better is because it has been so bad," Eugene said. "Definitely we are seeing more transactions take place because of the interest rates of course. Youíre seeing new constructions starting to come back a little bit and we are always happy when we see that as well."